Tag Archive | Susan Wittig Albert

Book Review: A Plain Vanilla Murder

Susan Wittig Albert is back with another mystery taking place in the world of plants. I learned a lot about that little brown bottle of vanilla I have in my kitchen cabinet and treacherous the acquisition of spices can be! This is the 27th book in the China Bayles Series. If you love learning about plants and their uses, I would also recommend her Book of Days.

Be sure to enter my summer giveaway below for your chance at a $20 gift card and a digital copy of my wedding mystery–Buzzkill.

China Bayles and Ruby Wilcox are offering their popular “Not Just Plain Vanilla” workshop when, across town on the campus of Central Texas State University, a botany professor (an expert on the vanilla orchid) is found dead in his greenhouse—an apparent suicide. Summoned to the scene, police chief Sheila Dawson (now in her last few months of pregnancy) wonders whether there’s something more to his death and opens an investigation into the many rivalries that have splintered CTSU’s plant sciences faculty.

But the dead professor is also the ex-husband of China’s friend Maggie, owner of the local garden center and manager of an orchid-sitting business. When suicide becomes murder, suspicion falls on Maggie. But China learns that there are many more suspects in this complex, vanilla-flavored affair. Does this story begin with a passionate desire for an exotic flower and its costly, delectable fruit? Does it start in a corrosive desire for revenge? Or is the professor’s death the result of a bizarre black-market orchid-smuggling scheme gone awry?

Once again, prize-winning author, herbalist, and amateur naturalist Susan Wittig Albert draws on history, legend, science, and the culinary arts to craft a botanical mystery that will entertain and enlighten mystery fans, gardeners, and nature lovers alike.

Special features: an author’s note on the history and uses of both natural and synthetic vanilla, and recipes and crafting instructions for “wonderful things to do with the ice cream orchid.”

My Review: Was it really suicide? China Bayles is back investigating a college professor’s death surrounded by the rich scent of vanilla. Like many of Albert’s books, you get a rich education on plant history. In A Plain Vanilla Murder, the story centers around the university community showing you professional jealousy between the professors and some curious ways to make extra cash. It was pretty cut-throat for a bunch of mild-mannered academic types! I enjoyed A Plain Vanilla Murder and would recommend it, especially if you love gardening or academic mysteries.

I obtained this book through NetGalley and have left an honest review.

Summer Reading Giveaway 2019

0m 0s

This contest is no longer accepting entries.

Learning About Susan Wittig Albert

This last Sunday I had the opportunity to  hear Susan Wittig Albert speak at my local bookstore.  Being a cozy writer in Texas, I was tickled to get to see the woman  I consider to be THE cozy writer of Texas.  She writes the China Bayles Series, as well as the Darling Dahlias.  I’ve read one of the China Bayle’s books and am really intrigued by her other series being set in Alabama.  I lived in Alabama for a short time after I graduated from college, excuse me–lower Alabama.  It is fertile ground for small towns and cozy mystery.

The author was there with her husband, Bill Albert who is her co-writer for the pseudonym Robin Paige.   Here are some interesting facts I learned about Susan.

This is her latest mystery in the Darling Dahlias Series.  Think about it the 1930's,the depression, and silver dollar bush?

This is her latest mystery in the Darling Dahlias Series. Think about it– the 1930’s,the depression, and a silver dollar bush?

1.  She started out writing young adult fiction.  She wanted to grow up to be Nancy Drew or Carolyn Keene, and she actually became of the many Carolyn Keene writers.  Her husband wrote Hardy Boys novels.

2.  She is fascinated by history.  Her Darling Dahlias series is set in the 1930’s in Alabama.  I loved listening to her talk about history and could almost hear it weaving into a story in her head.  She is working on a book about Eleanor Roosevelt and her connection to an AP reporter.

3.  She didn’t start writing until midlife.  You know I love this fact, because it was the same for me.  I think it takes that long  to figure out if you really want to do something you’re going to have to work at it.  Well, that and it’s a lot easier to write when you’re not trying to produce the great American novel in the span of a toddler’s nap.

When I was there I picked up her China Bayles Book of Days which Susan says is all the research that didn’t get into the books.  I use this type of book for journaling and love working in the garden, so I’m know I will enjoy this collection.  Watch out for an herbal poisoning somewhere in my literary future 🙂

Oh, and one more thing.  She has written a book about Rose Wilder and her collaboration with her mother.  It is self-published right now, but I think there is a publisher in the wings.  If you loved the Little House books–it’s a must read.  Here is some of the description:

A Wilder Rose tells the surprising true story of the often strained collaboration that produced the Little House books—a collaboration that Rose and her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, concealed from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers. Acclaimed author Susan Wittig Albert follows the clues that take us straight to the heart of this fascinating literary mystery.


If you ever get a chance to hear a writer talk about his or her work, don’t pass it up.  Hearing about someone else’s creative process, publishing experiences, and research is fascinating and inspiring.